A night after the play about the life and times of the former president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe debuted at the Bulawayo Theatre, veteran actor and director Memory Kumbota found himself on a hospital bed after an ulcer attack caused by the strain of coming up with the epic play.
Titled Robert, the play written by Nkululeko Nkala, consumed Kumbota, who already has a recurring problem with ulcers, as he worried whether they could up with a credible portrayal of the former Zimbabwean statesman. The play debuted at the Bulawayo Theatre at the end of April.
“It’s a problem that I’ve had for a while,” said the director who is in contention for the best director gong at this year’s ROIL Bulawayo Arts Awards.
“My conditions worsens with worry and you find that whenever we’re about to première a production I’m always stressed about whether the final product will be good enough,” he said.
According to Kumbota, this was more so for the Robert production, as it was a subject that he felt most Zimbabweans were familiar with.
“I would think that just raised my stress levels because we were dealing with a sensitive subject matter. I’ve been in plays that are banned and things like that but this was certainly hard to do. A major factor in this was that the subject is very well known so I was always worried about whether we were accurate in our portrayal. In such cases you want to be as true as possible to the person. We wanted to convey how his past had informed the person,” said Kumbota.
According to the veteran actor, they had two months to write the play, while rehearsals for the actual play only took another two months. The play is set to return for another run in June.